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My Grandparents

Ilse Eden writes about the experience of both her maternal and paternal grandparents who were born and grew up in Germany.

My Grandparents 

by Ilse Eden

Maternal Grandparents

My mother was from Schwedt an der Oder, a small tobacco-growing town in Germany. My grandmother lived there in what seemed like a big house. We took a train to Schwedt and were picked up at the station by a white horse and carriage, a treat for me and exciting. I did not see horses and carriages in Berlin.

My grandmother, Rosa, had a “salon,” where she received guests. My cousin Hans, who was a year older than me, and I decided we would choose what each of us would inherit from that room: a piano or a rocking chair. I think we agreed but I do not remember what each of us chose. (Grandmother later moved to Berlin and nothing was inherited).

My grandmother Rosa wrote perfect English letters and we have no idea where she learned English, since she probably left school at age 14. Unfortunately, we cannot ask her and wish we had!

Another enjoyable activity in Schwedt was walking to the old castle. It has now been demolished. Schwedt was in Eastern Germany and the government built an oil pipeline there. I visited and the residents were not happy after the wall fell–especially women, because they lost their child care and their jobs.

I visited the Jewish cemetery there which, together with an old mikvah, are still being maintained

Paternal Grandparents

My paternal grandparents lived in Berlin and were more formal than my maternal grandmother, Rosa. We had Sunday dinner with them once every two weeks, and what I enjoyed the most was going to the kitchen and asking the maid, Ella, what was for dessert.

My grandfather, Ernst, met me after I went swimming, and bought me a piece of cake if I had jumped into the water.  (I was scared of that). When he died, he left a bracelet for me in his desk! On his 70th birthday, my parents were out of town, but I was invited with our maid and he gave me a doll’s carriage. We took it home in a taxi and I slept with it in my bed!

After my grandfather died, my grandmother, Marianne, moved to a boarding house across the street from us. I remember visiting her and reading an English story, so she must have known English.

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